Ojibwe: Nanabozho the Wolf

In Anishinaabe aadizookaan (traditional storytelling), particularly among the Ojibwe, Nanabozho, also known as Nanabush and Manabozho, is a spirit who figures prominently in tall tales including the story of the world’s creation.

Several Nanabozho are featured on this site.
— Orly

Manabozho set out to travel. He wished to outdo all others, and see new countries, but after walking over America, and encountering many adventures, he became satisfied as well as fatigued. He had heard of great feats in hunting, and felt a desire to try his power in that way.

One evening, as he was walking along the shores of a great lake, weary and hungry, he encountered a great magician in the form of an old wolf, with six young ones, coming towards him. The wolf, as soon as he saw him, told his whelps to keep out of the way of Manabozho.

“For I know,” said he, “that it is he we see yonder.”

The young wolves were in the act of running off, when Manabozho cried out—

“My grandchildren, where are you going? Stop, and I will go with you.”

He appeared rejoiced to see the old wolf, and asked him whither he was journeying. Being told that they were looking out for a place where they could find the most game, and best pass the winter, he said he should like to go with them, and addressed the old wolf in these words—

“Brother, I have a passion for the chase. Are you willing to change me into a wolf?”

The old wolf was agreeable, and Manabozho’s transformation was effected.

He was fond of novelty. He found himself a wolf corresponding in size with the others, but he was not quite satisfied with the change, crying out—

“Oh! make me a little larger.”

They did so.

“A little larger still,” he cried.

They said—

“Let us humour him,” and granted his request.

“Well,” said he, “that will do.” Then looking at his tail—

“Oh!” cried he, “make my tail a little longer and more bushy.”

They made it so, and shortly after they all started off in company, dashing up a ravine. After getting into the woods some distance, they fell in with the tracks of moose. The young wolves went after them, Manabozho and the old wolf following at their leisure.

“Well,” said the wolf, “who do you think is the fastest of my sons? Can you tell by the jumps they take?”

“Why,” replied he, “that one that takes such long jumps; he is the fastest, to be sure.”

“Ha, ha! You are mistaken,” said the old wolf. “He makes a good start, but he will be the first to [Pg 181]tire out. This one who appears to be behind will be the first to kill the game.”

Soon after they came to the place where the young ones had killed the game. One of them had dropped his bundle there.

“Take that, Manabozho,” said the old wolf.

“Esa,” he replied, “what will I do with a dirty dog-skin?”

The wolf took it up; it was a beautiful robe.

“Oh! I will carry it now,” said Manabozho.

“Oh no,” replied the wolf, who at the moment exerted his magic power. “It is a robe of pearls.”

From that moment he lost no opportunity of displaying his superiority, both in the hunter’s and magician’s art, over his conceited companion.

Coming to a place where the moose had lain down, they saw that the young wolves had made a fresh start after their prey.

“Why,” said the wolf, “this moose is poor. I know by the tracks, for I can always tell whether they are fat or not.”

They next came to a place where one of the wolves had tried to bite the moose, and, failing, had broken one of his teeth on a tree.

“Manabozho,” said the wolf, “one of your grandchildren has shot at the game. Take his arrow. There it is.”

“No,” replied he, “what will I do with a dirty tooth?”

The old wolf took it up, and, behold! it was a beautiful silver arrow.

When they overtook the young ones, they found they had killed a very fat moose. Manabozho was very hungry, but, such is the power of enchantment, he saw nothing but bones, picked quite clean. He thought to himself—

“Just as I expected. Dirty, greedy fellows!”

However, he sat down without saying a word, and the old wolf said to one of the young ones—

“Give some meat to your grandfather.”

The wolf, coming near to Manabozho, opened his mouth wide as if he had eaten too much, whereupon Manabozho jumped up, saying—

“You filthy dog, you have eaten so much that you are ill. Get away to some other place.”

The old wolf, hearing these words, came to Manabozho, and, behold! before him was a heap of fresh ruddy meat with the fat lying all ready prepared. Then Manabozho put on a smiling-face.

“Amazement!” cried he, “how fine the meat is!”

“Yes,” replied the wolf; “it is always so with us. We know our work, and always get the best. It is not a long tail that makes a hunter.”

Manabozho bit his lip.

They then commenced fixing their winter quarters, while the young ones went out in search of game, of which they soon brought in a large supply. One day, during the absence of the young wolves, the old one amused himself by cracking the large bones of a moose.

“Manabozho,” said he, “cover your head with the robe, and do not look at me while I am at these bones, for a piece may fly in your eye.”

Manabozho covered his head, but, looking through a rent in the robe, he saw all the other was about. At that moment a piece of bone flew off and hit him in the eye. He cried out—

“Tyau! Why do you strike me, you old dog!”

The wolf said—

“You must have been looking at me.”

“No, no,” replied Manabozho; “why should I want to look at you?”

“Manabozho,” said the wolf, “you must have been looking, or you would not have got hurt.”

“No, no,” said Manabozho; and he thought to himself, “I will repay the saucy wolf for this.”

Next day, taking up a bone to obtain the marrow, he said to the old wolf—

“Cover your head, and don’t look at me, for I fear a piece may fly in your eye.”

The wolf did so. Then Manabozho took the leg-bone of the moose, and, looking first to see if the old wolf was well covered, he hit him a blow with all his might. The wolf jumped up, and cried out—

“Why do you strike me so?”

“Strike you?” exclaimed Manabozho. “I did not strike you!”

“You did,” said the wolf.

“How can you say I did, when you did not see me. Were you looking?” said Manabozho.

He was an expert hunter when he undertook the work in earnest, and one day he went out and killed a fat moose. He was very hungry, and sat down to eat, but fell into great doubts as to the proper point in the carcass to begin at.

“Well,” said he, “I don’t know where to commence. At the head? No. People would laugh, and say, ‘He ate him backward!’”

Then he went to the side.

“No,” said he, “they will say I ate him sideways.”

He then went to the hind-quarter.

“No,” said he, “they will say I ate him forward.”

At last, however, seeing that he must begin the attack somewhere, he commenced upon the hind-quarter. He had just got a delicate piece in his mouth when the tree just by began to make a creaking noise, rubbing one large branch against another. This annoyed him.

“Why!” he exclaimed, “I cannot eat when I hear such a noise. Stop, stop!” cried he to the tree.

He was again going on with his meal when the noise was repeated.

“I cannot eat with such a noise,” said he; and, leaving the meal, although he was very hungry, he went to put a stop to the noise. He climbed the tree, and having found the branches which caused the disturbance, tried to push them apart, when they suddenly caught him between them, so that he was held fast. While he was in this position a pack of wolves came near.

“Go that way,” cried Manabozho, anxious to send them away from the neighbourhood of his meat. “Go that way; what would you come to get here?”

The wolves talked among themselves, and said, “Manabozho wants to get us out of the way. He must have something good here.”

“I begin to know him and all his tricks,” said an old wolf. “Let us see if there is anything.”

They accordingly began to search, and very soon finding the moose made away with the whole carcass. Manabozho looked on wistfully, and saw them eat till they were satisfied, when they left him nothing but bare bones. Soon after a blast of wind opened the branches and set him free. He went home, thinking to himself—

“See the effect of meddling with frivolous things when certain good is in one’s possession!”

 

FINIS

 

Source:  Anonymous

Culture:  Ojibwe

Language:  Ojibwe (Ojibwa, Ojibway), also known as Chippewa or Otchipwe, is an Indigenous language of North America of the Algonquian language family.

Cree: The Red Swan

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